The Los Angeles Dodgers may be 6-3 thus far in the 2020 season, but that has come despite a poor start at the plate for the reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger.
He is batting just .139/.205/.167 with one extra-base hit in eight games, hitting a lot of balls on the ground while not looking like his usual self. Bellinger went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in Friday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and was on the bench the following night.
“He wanted to be in there tonight, but I just felt give him a little blow, get Matt Beaty some at-bats, and get Cody back in there [Sunday],” manager Dave Roberts explained.
It marked the first time this season Bellinger was not included in the Dodgers lineup. The Dodgers pressed ahead, receiving home runs from Edwin Rios, Matt Beaty, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor. Justin Turner also had a two-run triple.
Bellinger typically has been at the center of such a display of power, though thus far in 2020 the majority of his balls put in play have been on the ground.
“The contact rate is still good. The angle, trajectory is not where we want it to be. He’s not punching, so I think for him, there’s getting his mechanics synced up,” Roberts noted.
“I don’t think he looks completely comfortable. He’s still trying to figure some things out. I think there’s some calls that could go either way and flip counts, and he’s on the wrong side of those calls. It’s the way it goes sometimes when you’re not going well.
“But it’s one of those things that is more magnified right now. He’ll work through it. Hopefully he’ll take a day to ease his mind but also get work in.”
A big topic of discussion in recent weeks has been Bellinger changing his stance. While he is coming off an MVP season, Bellinger wasn’t happy with his second-half so decided to make some tweaks in the offseason.
Roberts added that Bellinger is essentially going back to his old stance and swing after getting off to a slow start. “In Summer Camp it was more drastic,” Roberts said of the stance Bellinger initially unveiled.
“I think over the last five to seven days, he’s trying to go back to what he did last year. Optically, it looks similar, but the production just doesn’t happen quite that easy. But I do think as he gets more comfortable with that stance and his swing mechanics, it’ll get back to more production.”
While Roberts is a bit surprised at Bellinger’s slow start, there isn’t much concern. “For me, Cody was very confident in what he came to Summer Camp with. I was just wanting to support him and expect good things to happen. You really never know until you start facing live pitching,” he said.
“You’re always trying to tweak things, that’s what hitters do. I’m very confident him getting back to what he did last year, he’ll find some comfort in his swing. I know the production will be there.”
Lack of work not to blame for Bellinger’s slump
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, players aren’t allowed to stay at the stadium before and after games as long as they would during normal season. That has cut into the amount of time that can be spent in a batting cage or taking early BP.
Mookie Betts recently brought that up for a reason for his slow start, although Roberts doesn’t think that is the case with Bellinger.
“I don’t think that’s the case with Cody. Mookie, he’s a tireless worker. The staggering of the cage time and making sure too many guys aren’t in that same space at the same time, I think Cody is a little bit of a different situation,” said Roberts.
“He was trying to work on something different mechanically and now is trying to go back to what he did. That’s a little bit different than with Mookie’s situation as far as the potential work he would’ve liked to have gotten in.”
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